Reflections on the Readings
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 25, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins
A Heart Full of Amazement - An Invitation to Believe!
"For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him." - Jesus
I am struck by the bewilderment Jesus expresses in today's gospel. Aware of the movement of 'known' sinners accepting John's baptism, yet the keepers of the law, of the commandments, of the promises of God refuse John's preaching and baptism. John came to his generation 'in the way of righteousness,' bringing a warning not to miss the true light coming. John's baptism prepared those coming to the banks of the Jordan river to be spiritually ready to receive the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Truly, John was a man sent from God. (John 1:6)
Tax collectors and prostitutes eagerly entered the door into the kingdom of God - the others - dismiss the invitation. Jesus asks, "Why did you not have a change of heart when you saw tax collectors and harlots entering the kingdom of God before your very eyes?" This is the bewildering, the amazing and perplexing question Jesus poses. Some in Jesus' day were so near, yet so very far away. Seeing the work of grace so evident, yet many remained unmoved, unchanged, unrepentant, and unimpressed.
The readings today remind us to pray always to have a heart ever amazed at God's amazing grace. We must always keep before us that God's love and compassion are eternal. His kindness and goodness invite us to walk in his way. His love guides us into the way of truth and life. God reaches out to show us sinners the way.
The movie, Les Miserables, is one of my all time favorite movies. The story offers several lessons, namely, that hardship is inevitable; injustice is real and harsh; a new beginning, a new life is possible through repentance; and forgiveness is a power vengeance cannot equal. As the Holy Father reminded the German people this past week, the faith and the witness of the saints and the Church they loved, "show us that it is truly possible and good to live our relationship with God in a radical way, to put Him first place, not as one concern among others." This is the power and truth the readings today reveal and remind us of. The great metanoia, the spiritual conversion we always need.
I'm sure it was this power of forgiveness that attracted the harlots and the tax collectors; the invitation to know God in a deeply personal way. And together, sinners of all sorts accepted a love that was greater than any thing they had ever known. John pointed to the doorway of a new humanity bathed in the light of the love that is from above.
The Church is a great door of invitation. The Church invites the world to know and fall in love with the Savior. It is not silver or gold that adorns the Church. The great and important museums of art and galleries of statuary - important as they are - are not the true glory of the Church. No my friends, not pomp or circumstance nor political standing or government approval is the true power of Christ's Church. My brothers and sisters, the true trophies of the Church are those who have traded their sins and sorrows for a new life adorned by Grace that is greater than all of our sins. It is this gift that his renewed every time we come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The true power of the Church is its power to forgive sins. The message of the Church is that, "God loves you, God is not mad at you, and God will never leave you nor forsake you." Personal faith in Christ through the Church is the reason for the presence of the Church in the world today. What is it that is amazing about Grace again? It is Jesus in his Church saying to you and to all, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more."
Jesus invites us today to this Table of Grace. We bring the gift of ourselves in praise of what his love has wrought in each of us. As we commune with Christ today, let us determine to live each moment with a heart full of amazement for this life giving bread and this saving cup.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now, I see. Amen.